Some police forces are putting the public at an unacceptable risk by rationing their response as they struggle with cutbacks, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary warns.
The inspectors say there are now too few police officers and in some areas an erosion of neighbourhood policing.
Three forces – Hertfordshire, Humberside and Nottinghamshire – had not been “responding appropriately” to emergency calls during inspections.
If a force reclassified or downgraded a call because of a shortage of officers, it could then justify a slower response time, said the inspectors.
“We are leading to a very serious conclusion regarding the potentially perilous state of British policing,” said Zoe Billingham, the lead inspector.
“Over the last few years, HMIC has said consistently that police forces were managing well in increasingly difficult circumstances.
“Nonetheless, today, I’m raising a red flag to warn forces of the consequences of what is, to all intents and purposes, an unconscious form of rationing.”
Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t think I’ve ever read a report from the Inspectorate that was quite as sobering as this.”
Dr Billings said there was “no doubt” that neighbourhood policing was under pressure, adding: “I think that’s true of my own area – because if people are really pressured to answer 999 calls, deal with incidents, they’re going to pull officers out of neighbourhood areas.”
He said HMIC’s report reflects what is happening across the public sector.
“You can’t get away from the fact that all of us are now trying to do more and better with less”.
What we say –
With regard to lone worker safety, this report highlights the ongoing cutbacks which should particularly concern all organisations paying a high premium for a so called ‘guaranteed police response’ via quoting a ‘unique reference number’ [URN]. The facility is now only available in limited circumstances and it is sometimes recommended by the URN switchboard that the caller should ring 999 instead.
We have always disliked the concept of the creation of what seems like an elite 2-tier 999 service, allowing those with a larger budget to ‘buy’ a so-called higher priority police response. Ironically, it now appears that there is little advantage in paying for an expensive facility which at best doesn’t result in a significant improvement in police response times. A housing association using the URN facility confirmed that due to this uncertainty they now ring both the URN and 999 switchboards to ensure that police do respond as quickly as possible.
Have you encountered these problems?
Original article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39135300